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mulchmowMowing your leaves - also known as mulch mowing - into tiny pieces on your lawn, is healthier for your lawn and soil than piling or bagging them to be removed. As the shredded leaves settle between grass blades and decompose, their nutrients enhance the soil. Leaf-mulched lawns often need less fertilizer and water. Excess mulch can be blown into garden beds to help prevent weed growth, to conserve moisture and sprinkler usage, and to provide a protective layer in winter. The pollutants from leaf blowers and trucks that must haul away the leaves are avoided. And, leaves piled in the streets can be a thing of the past! Homeowners around Scarsdale have been mulch mowing leaves for many years with great results.

Mulch mowing can be done with any standard homeowner or commercial lawn mower. Simply mow over the fallen leaves. All types of leaves can be mulch mowed. (Pine needles, which are acidic, may change the ph balance of your lawn if mulch mowed in large quantities so consider using pine needles as a mulch around the base of pine trees.) To help shred the leaves into smaller pieces, it’s recommended that a mulching blade be used. This type of blade, which has grooves to shred the leaves, is inexpensive and available for any type of mower.

All landscapers have the equipment to mulch mow, and it is just as easy (or easier) to mulch mow than it is to blow the leaves to the curb. If you have a landscaper, ask them to mulch mow your leaves. Many, but not all, landscapers have experience mulch mowing leaves. If your landscaper is new to mulch mowing, the following are key points for them to know:

• Equipment: They should use a mulching blade at a minimum, but a mulching kit will provide even better results. Mulching kits, which include additional attachments beyond just a mulching blade, are available at any mower distributor and can be fitted to commercial mowers.

• Mulching Technique: Mowing the leaves in a circular pattern, rather than back and forth in lines, will result in smaller pieces of leaves which decompose more quickly and will avoid “striping lines.”

• Time: It should take your landscaper no additional time to mulch mow leaves rather than blowing them to the curb. In many cases it actually saves time.

• Cost: Mulch mowing leaves should not cost more than having leaves blown to the curb or bagged. There are many landscapers in Scarsdale who have been mulch mowing properties for years at no additional cost. If your landscaper claims it will be more time consuming, ask them to try it for a few weeks. They should see it takes no additional time.

If you mow your own lawn, use a mulching blade which you can install yourself or bring to any local mower shop (there is one in downtown Scarsdale) to install. Make sure to have the blade sharpened as needed. Try to mulch leaves once a week so the piles don’t build up too high for your mower, especially during the heavy drop of leaves. For larger amounts of leaves, you may want to raise the height of the mower deck.

If you think that there are too many leaves to mulch mow, shredding piles of leaves reduces the volume of leaves significantly! What looks like a huge leaf pile will shred into tiny pieces and quickly settle into your lawn. If you are concerned about the quantity of leaves, try mulch mowing for a few weeks when leaves first begin to fall and there is less leaf volume. Even if you need to put some leaves to the curb during the heavy leaf drop, any reduction in leaves put to the curb is a benefit.

Excess mulched leaves can be placed in your garden beds. They look great, are a healthy addition to your yard and will save you the cost of buying wood mulch. Remember, to avoid damaging trees and plants, never place mulch directly against a tree trunk or shrub and never pile mulch more than 2”- 3” high in a garden bed.

The shredded leaves resulting from mulch mowing will not harm your lawn. In fact, the shredded leaves are beneficial to your lawn. Decomposing leaves cover the soil between the individual blades of grass where weeds can germinate. Once the small bits of leaves settle in, microbes and worms start breaking them down. It is important that the leaves are shredded because whole leaves left on a lawn can smother the grass. The shredded leaves quickly settle into the lawn and your lawn should not look messy.

Leaf mulch mowing benefits our local landscape, reduces the number of truck trips in our community and gets large piles of leaves off our streets.

fieldhockeyFollowing an afternoon downpour on Thursday, the skies cleared up to greet the Scarsdale Raiders Field Hockey Team as they got off the bus at Mamaroneck High School to visit the Tigers. The 4th ranked Raiders were sporting a 7-1 record and coming off an exciting 1-0 takedown of Bronxville earlier in the week. The third ranked Tigers had six wins for the season against one loss and one tie (against the first and second ranked teams respectively). This rivalry has created some classic games in the past and this contest proved no different as the Tigers edged the Raiders 3-2.

The match started with most of the action taking place in the middle of the field. Scarsdale’s co-captain Sophie Carroll was a significant presence in controlling the ball early. At the nine minute mark the Tigers had the first scoring opportunity as attacker Caitlin Rogoff sent a cross towards the goal but Mamaroneck could not convert it. Moments later, the Raiders Emily Felder stopped a corner drive and began a charge down the field. Carroll then took a long shot towards the Tigers goal and Andie Novenstein deflected the ball into Mamaroneck’s goal – and the Raiders had a 1-0 lead with 11 minutes gone in the contest.

The Tigers responded a few minutes later – as their sophomore sensation Ava Gristina scored off a corner at the midway point of the first half. With the score knotted at 1-1 the teams traded drives back and forth. Carroll shot a ball high over the net with 11 minutes left in the half and Maeve Jacobson had a nice drive from her defense position. Fellow defensemen Olivia Franco stopped a threatening Tiger breakaway with just over 4 minutes left in the half. With two minutes left in the half the Tigers Laine Pearson had a nice drive that Scarsdale repelled. The teams ended the half tied at 1-1 and both looked exhausted as the buzzer sound.

Both teams took the field for the second half with a renewed energy and the action continued. Gristina scored again and gave the Tigers a 2-1 lead as she scored on a very long shot from the left side of the goal with three minutes gone in the half. Scarsdale then took the ball down the field and put pressure on Mamaroneck’s defense. Goalie Samantha Maresca was forced to come out of the goal with eight minutes gone to stop a shot by Scarsdale’s Haley Matusz.

The Tigers then took the ball down the field and put their own pressure on Scarsdale. Raider goalie Angela Hoey made a huge save off a Tiger corner. After a flurry of activity around the Raider goal, Mamaroneck’s Laine Pearson punched home a rebound that came off a corner, and the Tigers took which looked like a commanding lead 3-1 with 17 minutes left in the contest.

However, the Raiders were not done, and responded within a minute. On their ensuing drive Matusz plucked a Sophie Franco shot out of the air and struck home Scarsdale’s second goal. Both goalies made fabulous stops in the next few minutes. Hoey repelled an attempt with 13 minutes left and Maresca point blank robbed co-captain Sophia Franco’s attempt at the equalizer at the 12 minute mark. Scarsdale kept the pressure on and co-captain Liz Scarella steered a drive that nearly led to a goal. With just under four minutes left in the contest, the Raiders had their last great chance to score as Matusz made a nice play and almost tied the affair off a corner.

Scarsdale gave the Tigers all they could handle as coach Lauren Barton remarked: “it was a great game and the girls played their best hockey of the season. We capitalized on the opportunities we had and played our strongest field hockey. We were much more patient on defense and explosive on attack.” Coach Barton also noted the balanced team play as she said: “every single member of our team played an integral role in our performance today.” The Raiders will have another crack at the Tigers in a few weeks – as it will defend its home turf – in a game that will surely have playoff seeding implications.

rabbiBlakeRabbi Jonathan BlakeThe discovery of a swastika in a bathroom at Scarsdale High School on Thursday September 12, has evoked strong condemnation from SHS Principal Ken Bonamo as well as the Chief Rabbi of Westchester Reform Temple, Rabbi Jonathan Blake. Both decry this act of hate and vow to take action to address Anti-Semitism in our community.

See their letters below:

(From Rabbi Blake at Westchester Reform Temple)

Yesterday afternoon, we learned through a letter (included below) sent by Kenneth Bonamo, Principal of Scarsdale High School, of an Anti-Semitic incident at Scarsdale High School in which a swastika was found engraved on a toilet paper dispenser in a school bathroom.

All of us commend Scarsdale High School’s leadership for their swift condemnation of this act of Anti-Semitism, hatred, and intolerance. In the year 2019, no person, young or old, in our community, or anywhere, should be subjected to the language or symbols that the Nazi regime used in the service of violence, terror, and mass murder.

We simply will not stand for it.

I have spoken with Mr. Bonamo to offer WRT’s partnership in responding to this hateful display, which he gratefully received. It is important for our community to know that our institutions stand shoulder-to-shoulder at this time.

Additionally, the clergy of the temple are available to meet with any students or families who would like to discuss the episode and how best to respond to your own questions and concerns, or your children’s questions and concerns. We are also reaching out to the Anti-Defamation League to alert them to the incident. The ADL is a trusted partner in WRT’s own efforts to confront and condemn Anti-Semitism and hate, and to continue to build a congregation and community established on principles of Jewish solidarity, universal human dignity, tolerance, respect, and inclusion.

When I was 16 years old, my family returned from a weekend at the Jersey shore to our home in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The chilling image that greeted us upon our return has never left my memory. As we pulled into the driveway, we saw swastikas painted all over our garage door. Our school district, synagogue, and the ADL collaborated effectively to identify the perpetrators (students in my sister’s eighth grade class), to provide sensitivity training in the school, and to discipline the offenders.

We all share the hope that similarly swift and effective measures will be taken in Scarsdale around this incident, and we stand at the ready to provide support in this shared effort.

During the High Holidays and throughout the year, we look forward to informing you about our ongoing efforts to educate our community about Anti-Semitism and to stand up against it, in all its many forms. Together, we will enter the forthcoming new year in a spirit of shared vigilance, resolve, and fortitude.


Rabbi Jonathan E. Blake

(From Scarsdale High School Principal Ken Bonamo)

Dear Members of the SHS Community:

I am writing to inform you of a recent event that warrants our attention as a community.

This afternoon, graffiti was discovered in a bathroom stall consisting of a swastika that had been etched into a toilet-paper dispenser. This symbol has significant historical and political significance as one of anti-Semitism, hatred, and intolerance. It is often used to express opposition to efforts to build an inclusive, tolerant, and safe society.

Because of the private location of where this was found, it will be nearly impossible to identify the individual(s) responsible for this action; it would be unfair to cast blame widely on the school community, as we know that most of us abhor and condemn acts of hatred. Yet the implications are serious enough that I felt obligated to inform you of this discovery, not to give attention to those who acted inappropriately, but to let them know that their actions have no place in our school community.

If even one member of our community feels unwelcome or distressed by this incident, that is one person too many. All students, families, and staff members must feel equally included and respected by each of us. Hate speech and scare tactics will not be tolerated and do not represent what we stand for. I ask each of you today to recommit to the belief that all of us deserve the opportunity to participate fully in our school community and our society at large and to join together in denouncing acts of hatred and bigotry.

Scarsdale High School’s Dignity, Inclusion, and Belonging Team will have its first meeting of the new school year in a few weeks. The team’s agenda this year includes creating and administering a climate survey and bringing programming to students to enhance our efforts in ensuring an inclusive school community where everyone of diverse backgrounds feels a genuine sense of belonging. This incident will be among the items that team discusses.

Students and families who would like to talk further about this incident should contact their deans or our youth outreach workers. If you have information about this incident, please contact me directly.

Thank you for your attention and consideration.

Kenneth Bonamo

FieldHockeyCoach Lauren Barton Instructs the Team.While the calendar tells us that fall is upon us this week, the weather still felt like summer as the thermometer was bumping on 80 degrees as the Scarsdale Field Hockey team hosted Carmel on September 21. Scarsdale came into the game boasting a 5-1 record while the Rams were sporting a nearly as impressive record of 4-2-1. In a hard fought contest the Raiders came out on top 3-1.

Scarsdale displayed a balanced attack throughout the game – with the offense and defense contributing to the victory. The Raiders struck first within the first 4 minutes as Andie Novenstein scored off a corner. The Rams put a fair amount of pressure on Scarsdale throughout the first half. Carmel was aided by what has become a continuing thorn in Scarsdale’s side – corners. The Raiders were called for 22 corners – quite a large amount – that set up the opponent for a multiplayer advantage right in front of Scarsdale’s goal. Fortunately for the Raiders, sophomore and second year goalie Angela Hoey and defenders Victoria Wilson, Maeve Jacobson, Olivia Franco, and Emily Felder came up big the entire game in deterring these attacks on its goal. Coach Lauren Barton said: “we’ve been practicing defending and executing the corners a lot during our practices. It’s an area we’d still like to improve.”

In a sequence midway through the first half Felder stopped a sure goal during a corner. On the ensuing corner penalty Hoey stopped a point blank shot by Kylie Rosenquest - one of Carmel’s top scorers. With 5 minutes left in the half Hoey came way of out the cage she was defending and blocked a shot and made a sprawling save on the rebound – preserving the Raiders lead.

With about 3 minutes left in the half Scarsdale Co-Captain middie Senior Liz Scarcella notched the Raiders second goal as she beautifully lifted the ball over Ram’s goalie Deveney Howard after a hectic scrum that was created off a corner. Her fellow Co-Captain Sophia Franco assisted as Scarsdale increased its lead to 2-0 and the score remained that way until the first half ended.

Early in the second half Hoey robbed Kylie Rosenquest of a sure goal with a fabulous save and Maeve Jacobson made an excellent stop off of yet another Carmel corner. The next few minutes saw the Raiders control the ball with Scarcella displaying strong ball handling skills.

With four minutes gone in the second half, Scarsdale’s Haley Matusz banged in what appreared to be the Raider’s third goal. However the goal was disallowed and the ball went back to the Rams. On the ensuing possession, Carmel’s Laila Rosenquest drove down the field and fed her teammate Caitlin Tully who knocked in the Ram’s first goal with 15 minutes left in the contest. Suddenly Scarsdale looked to be in a fight – nursing a 2-1 lead.

The Raiders responded to the challenge quite nicely – controlling the ball for most of the next few minutes. Eventually this pressure led to Matusz scoring at the 8-minute mark (with this one counting) after a high level of pressure around the Rams goal. Scarsdale took a commanding 3-1 lead that they did not relinquish. However, the Rams did not give up attacking. Goalie Hoey came way out of her cage to defend – one of several such times to squelch a possible shot on goal by Carmel. After the game Hoey said: “I come out when I think I can stop or clear the ball quickly – I’m not afraid to do that.”

The Rams charged several additional times in the final five minutes – but were turned away by the Raider’s defenders and goalie repeatedly. With 3 minutes to play, the Rams nearly knotted its second goal as Kylie Rosenquest narrowly missed the mark. The teams traded possessions as the clock ran out and Scarsdale emerged with the solid 3-1 victory.

This win brings Scarsdale’s record to 6-1 and facing an always dangerous and loaded Bronxville squad at Bronxville on Monday. Coaches Barton and Martinez will look to keep Scarsdale’s winning streak alive.

processedfoodGoodbye ice cream. Goodbye bread that stays fresh for weeks. Goodbye easy mid-week frozen pizzas and “healthy” frozen rice and veggie bowls. Goodbye easy on-the-go kids Clif bars? Goodbye everything that comes in a box or a bag whether it’s organic or not? Goodbye protein bars that are finally palatable?

In 2018, a report in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) suggested a link between ultra-processed foods and an increased risk for cancer. More recently, a study from JAMA Internal Medicine (published April 1, 2019) revealed that French adults 45 years or older who consumed 10% more ultra-processed food had a 14% higher risk of all-cause mortality. Another study in younger adults showed an even greater risk of death from ultra-processed foods. (According to published research studies, other ways to die an earlier death include sitting too much, eating fried chicken or seafood daily and smoking.)

“Ultra-processed” is not just a media buzz word or a new food avoidance trend. It is a term (and now commonly accepted food classification system) coined by Carlos Monteiro, a Professor of Nutrition and Public Health in Brazil. In 2009, Monteiro and colleagues suggested a link between the global surge in obesity and chronic disease to increasingly popular food production practices. Rather than just studying the effect food has on health by fat, carbohydrates, sugar, salt, protein, organic/non-organic for example, Monteiro created a classification system called NOVA that groups foods by their degree of processing: unprocessed (or minimally processed), processed and ultra-processed.

The NOVA system classifies foods this way:

Unprocessed foods have not been refined and do not have any added ingredients. Examples include fresh produce, dairy, whole grains, meat and fish. Think “farmer’s market”.

Processed foods have been altered in some way from their original state. Minimally processed foods include canned vegetables, canned broth, salted nuts, canned fish, plain yogurt, bran cereals, whole grain breads, tofu, cheese and smoked meats. These foods contain minimal additives and therefore have short ingredient lists. Pasta sauce and flavored yogurts are slightly more processed with added flavors and texturizers.

Ultra-processed foods, according to BMJ, are defined as “…formulations of food substances often modified by chemical processes and then assembled into ready-to-consume hyper-palatable food and drink products using flavors, colors, emulsifiers and . . . other cosmetic additives.” The formulation and the ingredients of ultra-processed foods make them highly convenient (packaged, ready-to-eat), highly palatable and highly profitable (due to low-cost ingredients). Because they are tasty, cheap and easy to eat, these products are consumed by people in ever-increasing proportions over natural/whole foods and freshly prepared meals. Examples include frozen meals, soft drinks, chips, candy, store-bought ice cream and ice pops, instant noodles, infant formula, energy bars and reconstituted meat products.

Ultra-processed foods are often high in sodium, sugar and fat. They usually have a low fiber content. They tend to be associated with a high glycemic response and become substitutes for unprocessed or minimally processed foods. Ultra-processed foods may contain additives like sulfites, be changed during the production process (e.g. high heat), or be packaged in materials that may be associated with adverse health effects like bisphenol A.

We all eat ultra-processed food. Fruits and vegetables have a short shelf life, but packaged mandarin oranges, for example, have a long shelf life. It takes time to make homemade granola but it’s easy and inexpensive to buy it in a box. Something labeled organic or natural that is in a box, bag or frozen is often ultra-processed. The “Healthy Choice” brand may not be so healthy after all. So how do we navigate this without getting overwhelmed?

Elizabeth DeRobertis, MS, RD, CDN, CDE, is Director of the Nutrition Center at Scarsdale Medical Group and has some suggestions for how to realistically decrease the amount of ultra-processed food in our lives. “I think it is unrealistic to avoid this completely,” she admits. “I think in moderation it is okay despite the headlines that are designed to scare us.” Elizabeth warns that we don’t want to instill the fear of eating anything unhealthy in our kids (called orthorexia), but that there are ways to buy, prepare and consume more conscientiously.

For breakfast, she suggests an omelet with fresh veggies. “For someone with less time, you can make ‘egg muffins’ (eggs and veggies baked in a muffin tray) in advance and just heat them up in the mornings. Hard-boiled eggs are another great option and you can purchase them already boiled and peeled at the grocery store.”

For lunch, she suggests trying to avoid the packaged breads with long lists of ingredients. “Instead, try to buy freshly baked bread or a brand like Dave’s Killer Bread that has minimal ingredients. And instead of ultra-processed bologna, salami or pepperoni, try fresh sliced turkey that only has salt and turkey on the ingredient list,” she says.

For snacks, Elizabeth agrees that whereas it would be great to always snack on fresh fruits and veggies, it’s generally unrealistic. “Sometimes the nutritional benefit outweighs things like a little bit of salt,” she says. “Some packaging also helps with portion size. Just because it’s packaged does not mean it’s ultra-processed.” Some healthier snack examples include 100-calorie bags of almonds, 100-calorie cups of guacamole with veggies, freeze-dried fruit packages and yogurt with fruit. As far as yogurt, Elizabeth recommends Siggi’s because even though there is added sugar, the total carbohydrate count is only 13 grams which is about the amount of sugar in a small piece of fruit. It also has 15 grams of protein and 150mg of calcium so it’s packed full of nutrients. Rx Bars offers bars for kids and have a very short, healthy ingredient list. (I personally always find these to be very sticky on the teeth.)

For dinner, Elizabeth recommends investing in an air fryer if your family likes the taste and consistency of fried or crispy food. “They have become very popular,” she said. “You can make the much beloved chicken fingers and chicken nuggets. You can make healthier versions of French fries, too.” For some healthier air fryer recipes, click here. For hot dogs, she suggests switching to a brand like Applegate Farms as they have far less ingredients than others, all of which can be identified. Another quick dinner suggestion is chicken lime burgers from Trader Joe’s. The ingredient list is a great example of the type to look for (short with things you can pronounce): ground chicken, onions, bell peppers, garlic, cilantro, natural flavor, salt, lime juice concentrate, red pepper flakes. Inspired by Elizabeth, I grilled these last night and they are rather delicious on a bun. (Of course, I then realized that my bun had about 104 ingredients.)

The bottom line is that though we cannot eliminate ultra-processed foods from our diets completely, if we understand the definition of ultra-processed versus minimally processed versus unprocessed, we can try to make more informed decisions when food shopping, cooking, packing lunches and snacks for school, getting take-out and eating at restaurants without going overboard.

Elizabeth recommends starting small with some healthier snacks. Please comment below if you have suggestions to share for less-processed meals or snacks that work for you and your family.

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